Introduction: Fiber Optic RGB LED Top Hat

About: ​Located in Minneapolis, Minnesota in the USA. Designing high quality LED controllers for personal and commercial use. All devices are designed and fabricated in the USA to high standards. With a competent sup…

This is a remix of the Instructable "My hat, it's full of stars!" by ChrisKnight.

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Since I first saw this it has been something I have wanted. Finally the time has come.

Featuring a Pixel Controller Ion, 14x 5mm RGB LEDs controlled with WS2801 PCBs, 18650 battery with holder, and 2mm fiber optic strands. A cheap, synthetic, costume top hat had "random" holes poked into it using a soldering iron with a fine tip. Since the hat was synthetic, the iron made clean holes. Each LED lights up 4 fiber optic strands which are run to the holes poked into the hat. The fibers were heat bent, using a hot air rework station, to make it easier to position and route them.

Project Webpage:

Step 1: Parts and Supplies



  • Solder Iron
  • Fine Solder Tip - for poking holes
  • Normal Soldering Tip
  • Electronics Tools - Pliers, strippers, electrical tape, etc
  • Hot Glue Gun and Sticks - Not all glue sticks are the same, use high quality ones.

Step 2: Prepare the Hat

The hat was a cheap costume hat from eBay. Cost about $12. Should have gotten a taller, higher quality one in retrospect.

Started without knowing how many holes would be made. Was trying for 48-64 holes, ended up with 56. Tried to place them as randomly as possible, and did an OK job. Using a soldering iron with a really fine tip, with a moderate temperature(think 225C was used), holes were carefully poked into the hat. The tip had a taper so using a bit of trial and error the right depth was figured to fit the 2mm fiber optic strand. Once the hole was made, the soldering iron was left for a split second to thoroughly melt/cauterize the hole. Worked around the hat until it was fully covered in "randomly" placed holes.

Step 3: Assemble the Electronics


  • Controller was preped with a 3-pin JST-SM connector
  • The button was connected using 6" 2-strand ribbon cable
  • An 18650 battery holder was joined with a slide switch and hot glued together.
  • Power wires were connected from VIN and GND/V- to the switch and 18650 battery holder.
  • Wrapped with tape and hot glued where needed.

LED Strand:

  • Started soldering the common anode 5mm RGB LEDs to the WS2801 PCBs
  • Cut 4-strand ribbon cable into 1.5" long pieces.
  • Used an auto-stripper to strip the ribbon cable, splayed the ends by separating the strands with a razor.
  • Soldered the WS2801 pixel PCBs into a strand. The type used here have IN on one side of the PCB and OUT on the other.
  • Made a strand of 14 pixels(more are shown in the images, made a few too many)
  • Covered all the PCBs and LED leads with heat shrink tube.
  • Test the strand.

Step 4: Install Fiber Optics, LEDs, and Controller

Fiber Optics Installation: By far the most tedious step. Takes a fair amount of guessing on how to place and route the fiber optics. Ended up a rats nest, but the 2mm fibers don't bend to well so not sure how it could be improved.

  • Placed the LED strand into the hat how. Note the strand shown in the image was modified into two halves. Each half had the LEDs pointing the opposite direction, which made routing the fibers a bit easier.
  • Started with the spool of fiber optic. Estimated the distance from the LED to the hole I wanted it in.
  • Cut the fiber optic to length with a snips, leaving some extra.
  • Using a hot air rework station set to about 200C. The end(that will be placed through the hat) was bent 90 degrees(or so based on the hole)
  • The now bent fiber optic was placed in the hole, roughly routed to the LED, and hot glued from the inside.
  • Repeat so each LED had 4 fiber optic strands
  • All 4 of the strands were trimmed to final length, wrapped LED and fiber ends with aluminum tape(reflective), and bundled it up with some heat shrink tube. So each LED has 4 fiber optic ends positioned at the top of the lens, wrapped in silver reflective tape and shrink wrapped up tight
  • Repeat with all LEDs and fiber optic strands until all holes are filled.
  • Test it out and make any fixes. Especially look for "dead" fibers that may have fallen out of the LED and fiber bundles.

Trim It Up: Each hole with a fiber in it will have some extra that extend out from the hat.

  • Go around with a sharp snips(end cutting diagonal cutters seemed to work well) and trim the fibers as close to the hat as possible. May want to try a few different snips to find which one makes the cleanest/flattest cut.
  • Re secure any fibers with more hot glue.

Controller and Battery:

  • Find a good place for them, where the USB port can still be accessed and the button wire can reach the it's mounting position.
  • Cut a small hole or slit in the hat, near to the brim, for the button wire.
  • Place the wire and button through the slit and secure with gaff, hockey, or other tape that matches the hat.
  • Mount the battery holder, so the switch can still be easily accessed. Hot glued onto the inside top of the hat.
  • Test it again.

Final step was to add a strip of psychedelic fabric around the base of the hat. Fabric was left over from another project and added a lot to the hat.

Step 5: Finished

Final step is to create and upload some color sequences. The software NLED Aurora Control was used to create some color sequences that worked well with this project. Set it up for 14 RGB LEDs(14x3(RGB) = 42 channels). Made and uploaded a few color sequences, but mostly it gets left on Rainbow/RGB fade mode.

Thanks for reading, please visit for Made In The USA LED Controllers and LED Products.

Or find more projects that utilize NLED products on our Instructables Profile or the Projects Page on our website.

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Updates and More Info Can Be Found On The Project Webpage:

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